How to Set a Writing Goal for 2024

Discover how to create and set writing goals for 2024.

No matter what type of writer you are, setting a writing goal will help you earn more money or build authority as a writer. Many writers don’t like setting goals. Recently, I came across a piece of advice from David Brooks. He’s an American writer for the New York Times and other publications, who said,

“Great creative minds think like artists but work like accountants.”

There’s a time for exploring interesting ideas, but you also need to quantify what success for your writing looks like. Perhaps you want to improve your writing skills, refine your writing process or get paid to write in 2024? All are valid. Be honest with yourself.

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Essays About Goals

How to Set Goals For Writing

Setting goals in writing is much like embarking on a thrilling journey—you start with a destination in mind and a map to guide you there. A word count goal, for instance, is like your daily mileage; it keeps you on track and moving forward. Most writing apps, like Grammarly, come equipped with built-in trackers, but if you’re old school or just love a good spreadsheet, you can easily set up your own.

You can also set goals around money, for example, earning a certain amount in 2024. You can aim to complete a big writing project like writing a book. Or you can target specific outcomes like writing for a big publication. 

Don’t just set it and forget your writing goals! Review your progress weekly. This isn’t just about patting yourself on the back (though that’s important). Recognize the big and small milestones that form part of your writing goal. And also figure out what’s working or not working. Finally, celebrate your achievements.

Use the SMARTER Goal Framework

To set a goal for 2024, you need an action plan. For this, I recommend using the SMARTER goals. SMARTER goals basically build on SMART goals. It is an acronym for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound
  • One you can Evaluate
  • Rewarding

So, what does this type of goal look like in practice? Well, last new year I set a SMARTER goal:

“I will self-publish a compilation of my writing books by April.”

That writing goal is specific because I clearly knew what I planned to do. That goal was measurable because I’d set a date of April. It was achievable because I’d already written these books. I just needed to re-edit them as one book and self-publish it. The goal was time bound, hence the April deadline.

In other words, I didn’t want the writing goal to drag on towards the end of the year. I was also able to evaluate my progress towards this goal each week.

Finally, the goal was rewarding because I knew it would help me connect with more writers on Amazon, publish another book and increase my earnings as a non-fiction author.

(You don’t need to wait until New Year to set writing goals. Once every three months is a good time-frame as that’s long enough to move a writing project forward.) 

Create a Writing Goal You Can Track

An ideal daily word count is an easily attainable writing goal. It’ll help you write more frequently and become a better writer. To do it, keep a notepad next to where you’re writing. When you’re finished writing for the day, record the date, and your word count for that particular session. You can also use an app like Grammarly to track your word count.

You can also log your progress in a spreadsheet (accountants beware!). At the end of the week or month, total up your word count for that period. Then, try to beat this word count next time. I do love a challenge, don’t you?

Alternatively, Scrivener will let you set a word count goal for a writing session if you’re working on long-form projects. Then you can track your progress each time you open Scrivener. But, how many words represent a good writing goal in the first place?

If you’re a new writer, set a goal for 200 or 300 words per session or day, as these will quickly stack on top of each other. On the other hand, if you’re feeling more confident or have a writing routine that works, set yourself a writing goal of producing 1,000 or 2,000-words each day.

If you dictate or use speech-to-text software (you should!), increase that daily measurable goal even more. A variation on this goal involves tracking your writing time. That way, you can gauge how much time you write each day and adjust as needed. So, goal-oriented writing depends on your latest project and your daily routine.

Writing goal example: I will write 500 words daily, five days a week, for three months at 06.00.

Write An Outcome-Based Goal

Some like setting goals for specific writing projects. Simply break down this project into smaller milestones for each month or week. This type of goal works well for authors.

If I’m working on a book of short stories or nonfiction, I will break down a large project down into small milestones that I can reach one-by-one.

  • Milestone one: By the end of November I will complete the outline of my non-fiction book.
  • Milestone two: By the end of December, I will write the first draft (no turkey for me).
  • Milestone two: I will edit the first draftby the end of January.
  • Milestone three: I will send the book to an editorby the end of February.

If you’re working on something smaller, your project could involve producing a series of articles for your editor by a particular deadline. Or, if you’re a blogger, a writing goal like this could mean writing a series of emails that subscribers to your email list receive after they opt-in.

In other words, a writing goal oriented around a project has a beginning, a messy middle, and an end. So check in with yourself or your editor early and often.

Writing goal example: I will launch a new blog with 10 posts before September of this year.

YouTube video
Watch the Become a Writer Today video on how to set writing goals.

Create a Time-Based Writing Goal

You can set a writing goal around a deadline. That way, your goal encompasses writing and revising. This approach works for freelance writers.

Many writers dislike deadlines. If you don’t like them, but the deadline into Google Calendar. Then, work towards meeting that deadline or finishing the writing project a day or two in advance. I use the editor’s deadline as a goal rather than something to fear.

Fun fact: I used to wait until the last minute before working on my deadline-oriented projects. Then I missed a few deadlines (look, there’s one!) and almost got fired.

Writing goal example: I will publish a novella by April of this year.

Set an Earnings-Based Writing Goal

Professional writers often want to increase their income. You could set writing goal around landing a certain amount of new clients or increasing your rates. Or perhaps you want to create an upsell for a book you write recently.

There’s nothing wrong with writing for money. No one criticises a doctor for seeing patients or a carpenter who hangs shelves for a fee. Track your progress towards this goal and your earnings. Ideally, focus on what drives dollars into your bank account and avoid activities that don’t (that usually means cutting back on social media).

Writing goal example: I will earn $xxx from my freelance writing by Y, by pitching Z clients per month.

Pick A Publication-Based Writing Goal

Many writers want to write for prestigious publications or magazines. Perhaps you’re an expert in your field and want to share your knowledge. Or maybe you want to build authority through your writing?

A year or two ago, I set a writing goal to be published by a periodical and I like to read Entrepreneur, Mashable and Forbes. I also wanted to write a book about focus and test my ideas in advance with the right audience.

So, I studied the styles of writers for these publications, and I figured out who the editors are (Google and LinkedIn are your friends!). This process helped me come up with some interesting ideas I was able to pitch to the editor of Forbes and start writing for them.

You might not be interested in those topics, but consider what you read and if they accept guest writers. Setting a publication goal will help you achieve it.

Writing goal example: I will pitch the editors of X publications with Y stories ideas each week.

How Often I Set Writing Goals

Typically, I set three to six goals I work on at any time. One to two of these are writing goals usually revolves around a book or large writingproject rather than a single article. I write these goals in Day One. As part of a weekly review, I look at the goals and ask myself,

“What have I done during the previous week towards achieving this goal? What will I do during the coming week to advance this goal?”

Work Goals into Your Writing Process

It’s possible to set many different types of writing goals. If all this talk about setting writing goals by project, revenue or publication sounds over the top, use what works and discard the rest!

Remember what setting effective writing goals should achieve. They help you write and publish stories, articles or books that earn you money, make an impact, or spread your message. If you’re stuck…

If you want to learn more about productivity or writing, check out Getting Things Done by David Allen, and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Both books address goal setting and other topics to help you accomplish more. Although they’re not specifically about writing, they will help you balance writing with other projects. They also provide various goal-setting templates.

Start with something simple like reaching for a daily word count or writing time goal. Those types of writing goals will help you increase your output and achieve more.

Writing Goals FAQ

What are good writing goals?

If you’re new to setting writing goals: set one around a daily word-count or time spent writing. Alternatively, set a writing goal based around a deadline.

How do you set goals in writing?

If you set a word-count goal, you can track your output in most writing apps or by using a spreadsheet. It’s also a good idea to review your hard work once a week and document milestones. Don’t wait until the end of the year!

  • Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.